I first heard of the “Gray Man” while living in Myrtle Beach as a teenager. Legend has it that he is the ghost of a man who was traveling North along the coast after years being at sea to visit the woman he loved. On the way, he and his trusty steed were caught up in quicksand in the marshes near Pawley’s Island, and perished. His true love was devastated when she heard of his fate and after the funeral it is said she walked along the beach in tears. A man, resembling her now deceased lover is said to have appeared and warned her to leave the island immediately. Upon doing so, he disappeared. The woman ran to tell her parents of the incident and they believed the warning! The family packed up their belongings and hit the road. The following day a horrible storm hit the island destroying everything in its path. Thanks to the warning, the family was spared. To this day, it is said his spirit has haunted the nearby shores ever since and if one is fortunate enough to encounter the Gray Man prior to the hurricane, it will prevent your home from being destroyed in the storm.
While there are several versions of the legend, as there tends to be with this type thing, there are four main possibilities as to The Gray Man’s presumed identity. The first being a man by the name of Percival Pawley, for whom the island is named. The second is the one and only Blackbeard himself, Edward Teach. The third is a man by the name of Plowden Charles Jeannerette Wilson. That’s a mouthful! Wilson was an early resident of the island whose former home is now the site of Pelican Inn. The fourth, an anonymous lovesick sailor. According to folks around the island the general consensus is that Percival Pawley is the man protecting the area. Residents say with great conviction that the Gray Man has made his presence known prior to all the recent hurricanes. I can say with the way Hurricane Florence is ratcheting up toward level 5, I’m sure a few old friends are hoping to see his ghost sooner than later.